Wow–only 4 more days until the Newport Marathon! I can’t believe how quickly these 16 weeks of training have passed by. Nearly half of 2014 is in the books, and I’m only a few days from attempting to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
I met with my coach last week to discuss the remainder of taper as well as my strategy for the race itself. Pacing is key, of course, but to keep that on track I need to have a strong fueling and hydration strategy. So, without further ado…
Pre-Race Fueling & Hydration
If you’re ever trained for a marathon, you understand the importance of carb loading not only the day before the race, but several days before it. Eating significantly more carbohydrates adds to your glycogen stores, which fuel your body during the race. To get your body to not only hold up but excel through 26.2 miles, it’s important to make sure your glycogen stores are as full as they can be pre-race. Once you start running,your body starts using up that glycogen.
The race is Saturday. My carb loading will start on Tuesday, which is slightly early, but my diet has been relatively carb-light lately so I want to give my body a little bit more. I’m planning to eat some of the high-glycogen foods I’ve been avoiding the past 6 weeks, such as white rice, pasta, and bread. I think my body will probably suck them up like a sponge. I fully expect to put on a couple of pounds this week due to added water weight.
Thursday and Friday are the most important days for me to carb load. Rather than gorging myself with gargantuan meals of spaghetti or mashed potatoes and gravy (see: 2012 Portland Marathon), I’m planning to eat sensibly portioned meals that are roughly 75% carbohydrate and fill in the gaps between meals with carbohydrate snacks like crackers and mini-bagels. I’m pretty sure I won’t want to see anything made with flour after this marathon is over.
My running partner, A, and I are taking our families with us to Newport. Parties of 8 create logistical challenges when it comes to pre-race meals out. I made dinner reservations for the night before the race after doing some serious research on Yelp in my quest to find a family-friendly place with a decent selection of pasta on the menu and that takes reservations. (I don’t want to blithely show up in town without dinner reservations–race-eve dinner is crucial.) I guess I thought Newport was bigger than it is, and that it would have a few more dining options from which to choose. In the end, I decided on the Rogue Ales Bayfront Public House, which has mac and cheese to please the kids and a few different pasta entrees for A and me.
It should go without saying that staying hydrated is crucial for anyone. Even before I ran, I was a firm believer in drinking at least 64 ounces of water per day. As a runner, I try to drink more than that. As a runner prepping to run a marathon? I plan to have a bottle of water by my side at all times leading up to Saturday so that I drink extra water.
Race morning I plan to eat my standard pre-race breakfast 2 hours before the race: apple and cinnamon oatmeal and a banana. I’m contemplating having part of a Luna bar, too, so I avoid any risk of stomach-growling during the race. I’m a little torn on this decision, and will probably test it out by eating half of a Luna bar immediately before one of my runs this week to see if I can stomach it.
While eating my breakfast, I’ll drink about 12 ounces of water. This is the last large amount of water I will drink pre-race to mitigate the risk of bathroom stops on the course. Having this amount 2 hours before the race gives my urinary tract time to get rid of it before, and not during, the race. My coach Kris taught me this practice for the New York City Marathon last year and it totally worked.
I’m going to bring 6 Gu packets with me to the race. I feel like such a dork for admitting this, but I didn’t try gel packs until last summer. I’d heard so many negative things about how disgusting it was that I was too scared to try it for myself. My coach, Kris, was the one who convinced me I needed to use it to run a well-fueled race. Before using it, I tried to get by on those sport beans, gummi bears, or Swedish fish, but I would invariably ingest those over time and they didn’t give me much of a boost. I like Gu because the flavor I use, Chocolate Outrage, has caffeine, so it’s not only carbs that give me an energy surge. I also happen to think that flavor tastes really good, like chocolate frosting–and yes, I do realize that I’m weird for saying I enjoy eating Gu.
My plan is to have one pack of Gu immediately before the start of the race. I practiced this on a completely empty stomach before my last long run and it didn’t bother me from a gastrointestinal standpoint at all (sorry–TMI). My coach has repeatedly impressed upon me the importance of taking gels before I think I need them. I consider starting a race with Gu to be a preemptive strike.
Contemporaneous with that pre-race Gu, I will take my last bit (4 to 8 ounces) of water before the race.
Race Fueling & Hydration
Have I told you about my drinking problem?
Not alcohol, water. I am a total spaz when it comes to drinking water at a race. I can’t just run up to a water table, grab a cup, and keep running while I sip from a cup. I usually walk quickly off to the side at water stations while I take a couple of sips, then jump back in to run. Trying to qualify for Boston means every second counts, though, and I can’t afford to walk through 10+ water stops.
My trick? Well, it’s really Kris’s.
Last year before the NYCM, Kris told me to bring one of those little 8-ounce disposable water bottles with the squirt-top to use for the first few miles of the race, avoiding the initial water stations that would be clogged with runners. I ended up running with that bottle for the first 5 miles, when it ran out. Luckily, an NYPD officer handed me a new, identical mini-water-bottle at Mile 5. A miracle! I used that one until Mile 10, when I had to start drinking from the water stations… And inhaled water on my first effort, leading to a coughing fit that wasted 2 minutes of my time.
I told Kris during out meeting last week about my persistent problem with coordinating running with drinking water (and, yes, we talked about the “pinch” method, which I will try during another race but not this one). I told her I loved the little water bottles in used at the NYCM, and she suggested my husband plant himself at various points on the course at Newport to hand me bottles. Great idea in theory, but in practice? Even my husband will admit he’s not that gifted at logistics. Then, the clouds parted and the angels sang: Kris said, “You know what? My husband and I have been talking about going down to Newport for the race. Maybe we’ll go down and I can hand you your waters on the course!”
Isn’t she amazing???? Seriously–I am not a frequent user of multiple question marks, but Kris totally deserves those–as well as multiple exclamation points. Only elites have water support people, right? I mean, who am I–Kara Freakin’ Goucher?!
A few days later, Kris confirmed she and her husband will in fact be in Newport and that they will station themselves at Miles 5, 10, 15, and 20 in order to hand me my little water bottles. I am amazed at their generosity. I’m also comforted by the knowledge that I have one less thing to worry about on race day.
I plan to take a Gu packet every time I get a new water bottle from Kris (so, at Miles 5,10, 15, and 20) even if I don’t feel like I need it. I’ve made the mistake of thinking I didn’t need fuel in past marathons, and that ended up hurting me late in the race. I’ve never bonked in the classic sense, but I’ve definitely felt like I had very little left in me. At the NYCM, I had only 3 packets. Not surprisingly, I felt like I was dragging my lead legs behind me from Mile 25 to the finish.
I don’t know if I will take any more Gu after Mile 20, but I’m open to it. If my stomach feels fine at Mile 24, I may take the last packet. I want to finish the race strong, and if having shot of glucose at the tail end will help, then I’ll do it.
Post-Race Fueling & Hydration
The easy part! The Newport Marathon provides clam chowder and Rogue beer at the finish. After 6 weeks of no alcohol, I will partake in a pint. By that point, I’ll have earned it.
How long before a marathon do you carb load? What is your go-to nutrition during an endurance race?